Foreign investors urged to go west

By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-08 09:34
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Foreign investors are being encouraged to invest in six specific industries in an effort to boost the development of the country's western regions, a senior economy planner has said.

The six industries are: energy and chemicals; finance; mining; production of agricultural by-products, including diary and sugar; manufacturing; hi-tech; and tourism.

Wang Jinxiang, vice-minister of theNational Development and Reform Commission, said in a recent interview with People's Daily: "As far as the western region is concerned, China has thrown open the door to foreign investors, by granting preferential policies and lowering the investment threshold."

Wang said that although the region has made progress over the past six years, it remains vulnerable due to a lack of foreign investment and a sound industry structure.

Foreign investment in the region accounts for just 3 percent of the total for the nation as a whole, he said.

Wang, who also heads the Western Development Office under the State Council, said: "Opening up the western region to overseas investors is key to its rapid and sustainable growth."

The region's backward industry structure has also held back its development, he said.

Wang called on foreign investors to develop more value-added modern industries including bio-energy and also to improve the use of mine resources.

However, he said that social and ecological issues must be given priority during the development of the relatively backward region.

"When investors come to the region to make use of the natural resources and pursue profits, they must also help to improve living conditions for residents," he said.

Wang said the central government will not authorize projects that involve a large amount of migrants who cannot be properly relocated.

The country has already kicked off a massive compensation and re-training program for the 1.2 million migrants involved in the giant Three Gorges Hydropower Project in the region.

Also, the government is trying to attract university students to go west by offering to pay their education fees.

China launched its western development strategy in 2000 to help the region catch up with the prosperous east.

The strategy involves 12 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, covering 6.85 million sq km, and a population of about 367 million.

Thanks to the strategy, the combinedGDPof the western regions reached 3.33 trillion yuan ($432 billion) in 2005, up from 1.66 trillion yuan in 2000.

(China Daily 05/08/2007 page3)